Judicial Watch Calls for Transparency,
Openness and Honesty in Government Dealings
Challenges Abuse of
‘Executive Privilege’ in Supreme Court Cheney Case
This week the
Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a new case with an old theme: executive branch
secrecy. The case involves Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force – and
the duty of the administration to disclose the task force’s deliberations to
the American public.
Watch, a public policy group that advocates transparency, openness and honesty
in government regardless of party, has been joined by watchdog groups across
the political spectrum, including the Sierra Club, in seeking the answers to
three basic questions:
- Who was on Cheney’s energy task
- What policies did the group secretly
recommend to President Bush?
- Why has the Administration refused
to disclose this information – in contravention to federal law and court
orders demanding public disclosure?
In July 2001,
Judicial Watch filed suit against the Energy Task Force, charging it was not in
compliance with the Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA), which mandates that
certain documents, task force members, meetings, and decision-making activities
be open to the public.
In 2002, a federal
district court agreed that Judicial Watch was entitled to discovery into the
composition of the task force and ordered cabinet agencies involved in the
meetings to honor our requests for information. That decision was upheld on appeal.
- But rather than comply, the Vice
President’s office and the Energy Task Force continues to insist that the
courts and Congress have no authority to seek information about contacts
with outside individuals alleged to have participated in the task force.
Court will allow both Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to present separate
arguments. This is unusual and
underscores the importance of this issue.
- “We are extremely pleased that the
Supreme Court will allow both Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to
present their arguments separately in the case against the energy task
force,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Both organizations now will be
able to make important points to the Supreme Court about the Bush
administration’s unprecedented assertion of executive branch supremacy.”
also noted that the administration’s position on task force secrecy has been
rejected at least three times by the courts.
- “Executive privilege was improperly
invoked by Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and now the Bush administration,”
Fitton says. “We feel confident that the Supreme Court will reject this
abuse and that the American people will eventually learn the nature of the
Energy Task Force and the recommendations it made to President Bush on the
supposed behalf of the American people.”
- “The Bush administration should stop
invoking the Constitution to protect itself from accountability and any
resulting political fallout. The
American people have a right to know whether lobbyists became de facto members of the Energy Task
Force who wrote our nation’s energy policies.”
case will be argued by Litigation Director Paul Orfanedes, a veteran Washington
lawyer and participant in numerous high-profile cases.
- “I am confident our
argument will prevail,” Fitton concluded. “The administration’s belief
that it is immune from court scrutiny, an action that is necessary to
ascertain whether the open meetings law even applies to the Energy Task
Force, is untenable. As the Supreme Court held in two similar cases – United States v. Nixon and Clinton v. Jones – no one is above
the law, not even the President of the United States.
For more information,
contact the Media Department at (202) 646-5197